Reverend J. shot me a note on Facebook, looking for advice on how his church should or could be using social media. So we had an old-school conversation via telephone (whoa!) to discuss it. Churches that have adopted social media have found success and nothing made social media go more mainstream within faith-based organizations than when the Catholic church (perhaps the slowest-t0-change religion of all) endorsed the use of social media to communicate with others and those outside the church. In other words, when the Pope has a YouTube channel, it’s time to pay attention to social media across other denominations.
Rev. J had three main questions.
1. Should we be using Twitter? (with a side comment of, “I just don’t get Twitter.”)
2. What should we do first?
3. What about YouTube?
These are all good questions. Now, the answers:
1. We did some research using Tweepz to determine how many active users were in the congregation’s small town. There weren’t many, but the search turned up a faith-based user and several users in an adjacent community. Given the low adoption of Twitter in the Rev’s community, I recommended he watch the conversation. It’s likely the Twitter community will grow, but creating an account and starting to follow the local conversation as well as looking for other faith-based organizations will, no doubt, lead to inspiration, helping the Rev. to “get” Twitter. If nothing else, Rev. J. should know that Twitter represents a huge opportunity to drive people to the church’s web-based content. And, I said, you never know when someone may be seeking prayers via a tweet.
2. There are 500 million active Facebook users. My estimate is that a good 70 percent of the congregation has a Facebook profile and of these, at least half are on Facebook daily. I’m not making these stats up. It’s good to go to the people, when you know where the people are. It’s also likely that church members will enjoy gathering online as much (more?) as they do gathering in the sanctuary. As a method of spreading the word virtually and growing the flock, Facebook is a winner, as often we find that friends have influential power over us. If one of my friends belongs to a church and is enthusiastically sharing the church’s content, inviting friends to events and generally making me aware of the church and its offerings AND if I happen to be seeking a church . . . I will certainly have my friend’s church in my field of vision.
3. Video is extremely important to consider as a marketing and PR tool. YouTube is the #2 search engine, second only to Google. Turns out, video is a cake walk for the church — music is a big part of the church’s services and events and is often recorded. Since video is easier than ever to capture and upload, the church has a real opportunity to share it’s musical ministry online. Sharing clips of services on YouTube (and then, across platforms including — and very importantly — on the church’s website “home base”) to introduce and invite people to visit and perhaps join the church is a great idea. Even if sharing the church’s musical ministry doesn’t bring in a single new member of the congregation, people may find what the church has to offer, right when they need it the most. And that’s part of a church’s mission, right?
Social media and ministry go together like nuns and comfortable shoes. Harness the power of social media to reach the people right where they are and without a doubt, your congregation will grow.